There are a number of superstitions based on black cats and, depending where you are from, they can be good or evil omens.
The fear of a black cat crossing your path is relatively recent and in direct contradiction with the ancient Egyptian’s reverence for the animals they domesticated around 3000 BC. All cats were protected by law from injury or death in Egyptian society. These cats were occasionally mummified and entire cemeteries dedicated to cats have been unearthed by archaeologists.
In England and Europe a dread of cats – particularly black ones – developed in the Middle Ages when cities were over-run with them. Alley cats became common and old ladies often felt compassion and fed them. During the era of witch hysteria the theory evolved that these women were witches and the cats their willing and evil companions.
A popular Yorkshire tale about felines and witchcraft involves an old woman who transformed into a black cat at night to prowl the streets. Again, there is a contrasting belief on the Yorkshire coast where wives of fishermen believe that men will return safely from sea if a black cat is kept in the house.
There is an Irish superstition that says a black cat crossing one’s path by moonlight means death in an epidemic. Most Japanese believe black cats are good luck although in the USA and parts of Europe they are simply bad omens.